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Thoroughbred Trainer Nominee: Len Pike

Hall of Fame
Len Pike

Len Pike left a major legacy to the WA racing industry in the Lark Hill training complex.

It is hard to comprehend now some 30 years after the opening of Lark Hill as a training complex in 1985 how intense the battle was for Pike and his Lark Hill cohorts of Bob McPherson, Malcolm Ayoub, Rick Ould - to name a few - had to endure to establish the racetrack.

Ascot was the epicentre of the State’s racing industry and there was training at Belmont Park and the retired racetrack at Helena Vale had been a training and trial centre, before being closed up and sold off by the WA Turf Club.

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When Pike established his stable at Rockingham it was considered to be in the “sticks” as it was a far throw from Ascot.

The land at Lark Hill was obtained through racing and media personality Bob Maumill and local State member Norm Marlboro.

What was needed to drive project from virgin bush into a racetrack was a person with an iron determination – that man was Pike.

The Baldivis-Lark Hill community bandied together like folk in a small town following a disaster to construct the spacious track, which was based on Flemington.

Volunteers toiled hard each day and on weekends, shovelling cement, clearing debris and erecting the fences and stalls.

Pike’s long-term ambition was for Lark Hill to become a major racing centre.

But instead of being applauded for their sweat they came under heavy fire from the WATC, which was vehemently opposed to the track ever being licenced.

Pike’s dream of racing at Lark Hill came to fruition in 2001 when a picnic meeting was held at the track and the horses were ridden by amateur jockeys.

Pike applied the same steely grit to his training and he quickly rose through the ranks from an owner-trainer in 1955 to be the State’s leading professional trainer in the 1970s.

Pike was well known for his plunges and he pulled off his first coup on a horse called Wakeman in the Studmasters Cup at Pinjarra.

Pike won his first trainers’ title in 1973-74 and was to win another six titles to dominate the training ranks in the 1970s.

It wasn’t until Ascot trainer Lou Luciani won his eighth title in 1997-98 was Pike’s State-record to be eclipsed.

Neville Parnham did not break Pike’s training record of a 101 winners (1976-77) in a season until he trained 102 winners in 2009.

Known affectionately as “Father” by his family and peers, Pike had a good eye for a horse and abundant patience and skill in preparing one to fulfil its best.

Champion Sydney Tommy Smith left Pike Igloo to mend after the stayer suffered a severe breakdown before the 1972 Perth Cup and he made a complete recovery to win the 1974 Brisbane Cup.

Pike had the perfect training centre with his horses able to walk to the beach for swimming and workouts.

Pike loved nothing more than to beat the bookmakers and an example of this was when Star Glitter was backed from 20/1 into 9/4, and ridden by Pike’s son Tom duly won providing a rather dramatic reversal of form.

Pike and Tom were to be formidable combination. They created a record, which is likely to stand the test of time, when Detonator carried 67kg to win the 1976 Bunbury Stakes. They returned to win the Bunbury Cup with Paris Prince the next year.

Detonator had carried 51.5kg to give the pair success in the Group 1 Railway Stakes in 1975.

Another testimony to Detonator’s weight-carrying ability was when lumped on 60.5kg he won the 1976 Easter Stakes at Ascot.

He also won the 1975 Lee-Steere Stakes and 1976 Hyperion Stakes at weight-for-age and has the Detonator Stakes named in his honour.

Pike prepared Whiskey Lover and Hanging In to finish second and third to Sanatate in the 1983 Railway Stakes.

Pike prepared a swag of top line horses but among the best of his others were Star Glitter, Action Station, Firelight, Venetian Princess, Super Red and WA Oaks winner Lovely Curves.

Pike died on the eve of the Melbourne Cup on November 4, 2002.


WA Racing Hall of Fame - People's Choice

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